In the hobby of board gaming, no three words are spoken with more disdain than roll and move. I cannot think of a phrase used to negatively describe a gaming experience more frequently than those words. The very idea that anyone would have to roll a die to see how far they have to move seems to put gamers on edge faster than watching someone open a bag of Cheetos at the table with their pristine copy of the latest exclusive laden CMoN Kickstarter.
However, I think everything has a use and there are some games where roll and move just works. Here’s my list of ten games that do Roll and Move right.
In Magical Athlete from Z man Games you’ll draft a team and then race them against your opponents in a number of heats. In each race you’ll roll a six-sided dice to determine how far your runner moves. Why I like this game, is that every runner has a special power. Some of them work based on your rolls, some of your opponents, and some ignore the dice altogether. Magical Athlete uses Roll and Move well because even though you’re only rolling the dice, the various powers add to the strategy that you’ll use in the drafting of a team and the races themselves. You will still be subject to the randomness of roll and move, but have the ability to strategize around it.
Review for this and other PSC games coming shortly
Winners Circle from Alea is a fun horse racing game. At the beginning of the game you place hidden bets on which horse you think will win the race. On your turn you’ll roll a die and based on the symbol you’ll choose one of the horses to move. Each horse has a unique set of stats and moves a different number of spaces based on the symbol rolled. You choose a horse after rolling and can only use a horse that hasn’t moved yet. This means you may be forced to move a horse further than you’d like. You’ll also have to pay attention to which symbols work best for which horse. There are four symbols on the dice but one of them appears three times, making it the most frequently rolled symbol. This can effect which horse you bet on in the beginning. The game uses the hidden betting and random rolls to build tension. You’re never sure of which horse you and your opponents have bet on and can’t be certain if you’re helping or hurting those around you.
Xia: Legends of a Drift Systemw - Renegade Games
Xia: Legends of a Drift System from Far Off Games shares some elements with the previous two entries. As a space game, you can travel around and buy upgrades for your ship. The size of your ship includes an engine size that determines the dice you’ll be rolling to move your ship. Of course, bigger engines mean larger dice. However, the game also includes an impulse score for all ships, which is a set number of spaces you can move once per round in addition to rolling dice. This helps to mitigate some other factors found in rolling dice that lets you choose how far you’ll be going.
In Camel Up from Pegasus Spiel roll and move is used to help build the thrill of racing. On your turn you take one of several actions that can include betting on which camel will win or lose, placing terrain on the racetrack, or moving one of the camels. In Camel Up when deciding to move a camel you’ll randomly take a die and move its corresponding camel. Not only are we using roll and move the camel, being moved is random. The knowledge of which camel will be moving next does become easier to predict since each camel can only move once per round, meaning there are fewer dice to be randomly assigned as the round progresses. Additionally, since the camels stack moving, one camel can move the camels on top of it so you’re never quite certain how far any camel will go when it moves. All of these factors work together to help use the roll and move in an interesting way that keeps the game exciting all the way through.
In Rattlebones from Rio Grande Games you and your friends travel around a circus gathering starts, coins, and victory points. Rattlebones introduced the mechanic of dice crafting. As the game goes on, you’ll replace the sides of your movement dice with different effects and abilities. As you play through, you’ll be able to customize your dice to help build a strategy. The dice crafting system helped to adjust the luck aspect of roll and move to narrow the odds in your favor. The game does keep randomness in play since you can never remove the 1 side of your dice and will always have a chance to be forced to move on your turn.
A Touch of Evil: the Supernatural Game
Flying Frog Production’s A Touch of Evil is a gothic horror game steeped in forties horror cinema. It relies on the dark stories of fantastic monsters roaming the countryside and descending on a small out of the way village with sudden terrible attacks. On your turn you begin by rolling a six-sided dice to determine how far you can move and if you roll a 1, you get to draw a card. After you roll, you can decide to stay in place or move. Staying in place allows you to interact with your current space but makes you susceptible to an attack by the games monster. This adds a level of risk versus reward that I like. It’s also incredibly thematic. These stories all have those times when the hero has to move slowly through the night to find more information, but staying too long invites attack. The tension that this builds only adds to the game. Honestly, I could have gone with a lot of their games. I think Last Night on Earth and Invasion from Outer Space could easily have been on this list for most of the reasons I choose A Touch of Evil, I just think Touch uses it the best.
Merchant of Venus
Merchant of Venus from Fantasy Flight Games is a pickup and deliver game where you’ll be flying around the galaxy exploring trade routes, buying supplies, trading with alien civilizations, and trying to navigate the space lanes. On your turn you’ll roll three dice that you’ll need to decide what to do with. You can use all of them for movement to go farther along, or place some to navigation, use them to power pieces of technology in your ship, or set them to other tasks. I like how this game uses the roll and move mechanic because instead of just setting it as a roll higher move farther, sometimes you’ll want to use higher dice to pick specific space lanes or to activate different defense systems. The game gives you different ways to manipulate and use the dice that give you interesting choices along the way.
Asmode’s Formula D is a racing game where the dice are skewed to help with your choices. Different sized dice are used to represent different gears on your car. In addition to this, the dice doesn’t represent the traditional 1-6 or 1-10 numbers typically used. For example, the first gear dice is a four sided dice that shows numbers between 1 and 2 where the sixth gear is a thirty sided dice with numbers ranging from 21 to 30. This helps recreate the feel of the different gears but prevents a bad roll from completely removing you from the race. You always have some control over how far you’ll be moving.
Deep Sea Adventures
Deep Sea Adventures from Oink Games is push your luck game where you take part in undersea exploration. Each player rolls dice to slowly submerge on their turn, slowly using up the shared oxygen supply before deciding to return to the sub. Roll and move is used to build tension. When will you turn around, how far is too far, and how long will the oxygen last? Knowing how random the dice are is a part of what you have to take into account. Without roll and move this game would be less engaging. The fact that you don’t have a concrete answer backed by perfect knowledge is what helps make this game sing.
Nautilion from Z Man Games is a 1 to 2 player game where you are sailing towards an enemy base while they have a ship sailing towards yours. Here you start your turn by rolling three dice and assigning them to yourself, the enemy ship, and a sea monster hazard. While at first it looks like you want to assign the enemy ship, the low numbers every round so you can get to their island faster. The game does throw in a nice curve ball here with you needing to recruit crew along the way. Since you need to pick up specific members from a randomly seeded route, you’re never quite certain which path you’ll need to take. The game mitigates the randomness of roll and move by giving you three dice but makes the decision of which to use a juggling act where you’re trying to balance recruiting crew, avoiding the sea monster, and going faster than the other ship. It makes you want and even need to give the enemy ship the higher dice sometimes to keep moving forward.
That’s my list. These are all the games I think implemented Roll and Move in the best way. What do you think? Were these good uses of roll and move or does it fall flat? Do you know of another game that uses it well? Let us know in the comments down below or head on over to our discord and chime in.
Until next time, be well.